Blog Post

First Example of In-App Purchasing Does Not Bode Well


Everyone is so focused on finding apps that support push notification that they probably haven’t looked too hard for apps that take advantage of other iPhone OS 3.0-specific features. For example, Gokivo is the first app to officially make use of in-app purchases.

Unfortunately, it also appears to be the first to use the new feature to bilk you with a ridiculous payment scheme. The app is being billed as the first to offer turn-by-turn directions that make use of the iPhone’s built-in GPS. And at only $1, it may seem like a steal.

But $1 only gets a relatively useless map and Yahoo (s yhoo) local search app. To enable turn-by-turn navigation, you’ll have to make use of Apple’s (s aapl) nifty new in-app purchasing system to buy a subscription. Which, until recently, wasn’t indicated anywhere on the app’s description page, so it came as a nasty surprise to people who’d already bought and paid for what they thought was a navigation app.

Before they updated the app description, it was when you actually went to use turn-by-turn that the service would cost you an additional fee. And what a fee it was. $1 would get you one minute, or $3 for 10, or $10 for a monthly pass. At those prices, the appeal of having turn-by-turn on the iPhone is lost for me, since I can get a standalone Garmin for a one-time fee and not pay a dime in monthly subscription fees.


Not only is the price exorbitant, but the service itself actually doesn’t even work that well, according to at least one source. iLounge’s Jeremy Horwitz actually forked over some cash to test out the turn-by-turn features, and ended up in some dead-end street nowhere near the Apple retail store he was trying to get to.

It isn’t all bad, though, according to Horwitz. Nice features include voice-over directions; live, automatically updating traffic information; and a save function that allows you to resume your trip if you have to leave the app to take a call, check email, etc.

I just can’t get past the price for the service. I suppose as an early entrant, the folks behind Gokivo can be expected to try to grab some of that early adopter green that’s passed around so freely, but given their dismal rating in the app store, and the negative press this is generating for them, it can’t possibly be working out to be a profitable arrangement for them. Let’s just hope it stands as an object lesson instead of a sign of things to come.

34 Responses to “First Example of In-App Purchasing Does Not Bode Well”

  1. >>>If stand-alone Garmin and Tom-Tom hardware with software can be purchased for $150 or less and used without annual subscriptions, their iPhone Apps should worth a one-time payment of $20-$30 — at most!

    You forget that you have to buy a separate FM receiver and an annual subscription fee in order to get live traffic information.

    You also forget that GPS hardware makers are dying left and right.

  2. HD Boy

    …Oh, and the $9.99 per month, Verizon and AAA navigation fees are questionable too. Verizon is a known leech.

    4. We’ve already paid federal taxes to launch and support the damn navigation satellites. I’d pay a one-time fee to use the service and never have to upgrade it again (perhaps only upgrading when I chose to do so).
    5. What if I live in an area where new roads are seldom built or I don’t travel as much as a salesman?
    6. I might need and want the service, but not every day, and I don’t want to be nickel-and-dimed to death.

  3. HD Boy

    I say avoid all these “turn-by-turn navigation Apps for now and send a crystal clear message to the developers — no subscription fees.

    1. A $99 subscription fee is like Microsoft trying to get everyone to rent music — it ain’t gonna’ happen.
    2. If stand-alone Garmin and Tom-Tom hardware with software can be purchased for $150 or less and used without annual subscriptions, their iPhone Apps should worth a one-time payment of $20-$30 — at most!
    3. Even then, these new, unproven Apps first should be available on a 24-hour, trial basis and/or with a refund available if the software doesn’t meet the customer’s approval.

  4. MDolley

    What about flick fishing? It updated with in app purchasing as soon as I updated to OS 3.0 on my iPod touch?

    It was 1.19 ($AU) for a new fishing location. Which I think is a good example of in app purchasing.

  5. Gokivo is refunding users with an iTunes song that felt confused or misled by our 99 cent download price and $9.99 monthly subscription model in the first two days in the App Store. This confusion was certainly not intentional

    See details in a press release here –

    Again, our apologies for any misunderstanding. We hope this clears things up.

  6. Gokivo is made by NIM — a very legit navigation app maker that also created the Verizon’s VZ Navigator and AAA Mobile Navigator. They also charge the same $9.99 per month for VZ Navigator and AAA Mobile Navigator.

    There is no scam here. I would accept that it’s an honest mistake for them to not make it clear that TBT requires the subscription fee.

    What’s more interesting is how Apple responds to refund request if people complain that it’s not accurate? NIM makes good accurate TBT navigation apps for other cell phones. It’s not Goviko’s problem if the iphone hardware feeds the software incorrect GPS data.

  7. The App Store just needs a little badge next to the rating that says whether the app uses in-App purchases or not and the developers declare this fact when they submit heir apps to the store. If an App does use in-app purchases but the developer doesn’t declare it, they are kicked out of the store. The emblem can be an icon of a Nickel and a Dime… since apps like this will nickel and dime you.

  8. I agree with @UnnDunn, the app has to cost a buck just be be able to do in app purchase, thanks to Apple’s setup. However, knowing this, the developer should have made it very clear in the description that it requires a monthly fee to use the app, so people didn’t pay a buck, thinking that’s all they’d have to pay.

    Of course, it could also be argued that the people who bought the app should’ve known better. Did they seriously believe that a turn-by-turn directions app would only be a one-time charge of $1, similar services on an off phones costs so, so much more?

    Going back to Apple’s “in app purchase only for paid apps” rule, Apple really shot themselves in the foot with that one. One, you’re going to continually have issues like this, where people pay for an app only to find out they can’t do much with it without paying more. If it were free, you could simply say “oh well” and delete it. Two, if it had been extended to free apps, developers could finally truly release trial versions of their software: download the app for free, after a defined amount of time the app’s features are disabled and you have to purchase it to continue using it. No more complaints about wasting money on crappy software and no more trepidation over downloading that $10 app, because you’re just not sure if you’re going to like it. Come on, Apple, surely you’ve got smarter people than me working there. How come you guys didn’t think of this?

  9. UnnDunn

    Ahem… $10/mo for turn-by-turn (with live maps and traffic) compares favorably with equivalent navigation plans offered by the wireless providers (eg. VZ Navigator, Sprint Navigation) AND with update-subscriptions offered by TomTom and the like.

    The only reason it costs $0.99 to download is because they need to charge something in order to enable in-app purchase, since free apps can’t do in-app purchase.

    If YOU can think of a different way for GoKivo to make this available on iPhone, given the asinine system Apple has set up, I’m all ears. They could make you sign up on the website and demand a username and password to use the turn-by-turn feature, but people would still find a way to whine about it.

  10. These are the details that Apple should ‘screen’ about, how their app works with its subscription model and its pricing schemes. Not some random knee-jerk reaction of “okay i saw this app show boobs, a sec ago.”

  11. Roger Kent

    IPhone 4.0 coming after summer with Steve Jobs.

    1)Flash player support
    2)Quick back option without going to home screen while switching between apps.
    3)File browsing and storing
    4)Option to attach images, file etc from email app itself.
    5)Multiple signature options
    6)Manual rotate gesture option
    7)Notes app should be more powerful word process (fonts, text size etc)
    8)All Grouping of contacts for test message e.g. friend and family groups.
    9)App for grouping key social networking sites(for posting universal photos, text to all social networking sites together.
    10) Auto spell check in safari browser (like mozilla) when adding text in twitter, facebook leaving comments at blog etc.
    11)Build in Flash in camera for night photo shot
    12) Front facing camera for video Chat
    13) Use cover flow for using multitasking third party apps (limit to 5 apps, not to drain the battery life)
    14)Thin quick time player app to run video downloaded from web.
    15)Group notification alert or not attended tasks(missed MMS, SMS, PHONE, Chat message, meeting, event etc)on single screen.

    Roger Kent

  12. You know, if this is a scam, the developers went to great lengths and many lines of code to pull it off. Most scams I have seen so far for the iPhone have been very simple “pictures” going for $1000.

    Apparently, this is a true turn-by-turn navigation app that costs $1 for the app and $10/month for the service. That doesn’t shout “scam” to me. It just sounds like people being unhappy at having to pay a subscription to get turn-by-turn navigation.

    I wonder if TomTom will be a subscription based app or a single charge…

    • “You know, if this is a scam, the developers went to great lengths and many lines of code to pull it off. Most scams I have seen so far for the iPhone have been very simple ‘pictures’ going for $1000.”

      Actually, “I Am Rich” wasn’t really a scam. The app was quite clear what it did–absolutely nothing. If you wanted to pay $1000 for said app, you must be rich.

      This is a scam in that if you read their website, they talk alot about the app. But there is no mention of the fact that this is a subscription service until you get to the buy page on iTunes. Even then, they mention two service “tiers” and it certainly isn’t clear what is going on.

      Their only defense is that Apple doesn’t allow In-App purchases for free applications. If I didn’t pay anything for the app and then discovered it was a conduit for a subscription service, I’d be less offended. But the fact that I have to pay 99 cents to discover this is unacceptable.

  13. Justin

    Wouldn’t it make more sense for them to have charged $9.99 for the app and included the first month of service? Then at the end of the month, you would be required to continue your subscription. This is the only way that the subscription services like this are to work, I think.

  14. This was exactly my first thought when I saw them announce in-app purchases. Given the number of useless apps on the App Store, this is the inevitable result of this feature.

  15. When I heard about the in-app purchases and having seen the attitude of some “gold rush” iPhone developers, I figured something like this was bound to happen.

    The app is 99 cents. Oh! You wanted it to actually be useful? That’ll be another $10 a month!

    Even if everybody who bought it throws it out, Gokivo made 99 cents off of them. They’ll end up with crappy ratings and nasty comments, sure. But by that time, they’ll have started another “company” and have the next scam ready to go.

    (In their defense, their iPhone download page does mention that turn-by-turn directions requires the $10/mo subscription. But one their website, there is no reference to it at all that I saw.)

  16. I got sucked in with the turn-by-turn feature being one of the features I really wanted. I got this because it’s the first app I heard that had turn-by-turn. I couldn’t get the $9.99 to work, got the $0.99 to work and got to the directions. But they where from California to the location that I wanted to get to! It did not even start from my actual location. The app is clean but still needs a lot of work, save you money unlike me, I think I may have inadvertently bought 5 subscriptions, ugh.

  17. That’s the value of the ratings. People should use them, especially if they are disappointed, or if they are delighted.

    I’d be willing to pay for a traffic update subscription if I had confidence that they were close to real-time and accurate.